I know what a big deal karaoke, aka KTV, is in China and in Asia in general, so I was looking forward to experiencing it. So when LYY (my host) suggested we call her friends as go last night (Friday), I was in. I put on makeup and cuter clothes and felt like a real person for the first time in a week. It was exciting. (Sidenote: I have felt like my hair has been dirty every day since getting here, despite washing it every day with a variety of shampoos. Something in the water? I think I’m giving up. Ponytails every day until winter.)
LYY called to make a reservation and texted a few friends and coworkers to come. I invited a few of the Americans in my cohort, one of whom ended up bringing her own youthful host “sister” and friend.
Difference 1 between our karaoke and KTV: it’s all in private rooms, with just your friends. Ours had a leather banquette facing a big TV, and we had plates of kettlecorn and watermelon, and maybe 18 bottles of light beer open and ready to go.
Difference 2: Whoever is singing just sits or stands in place, and the rest of the group may go on their merry ways talking and eating and drinking, often paying not too much attention to the actual singing. Also, the music is so loud that it’s not that easy to hear the singer anyway. So it’s perhaps a less nervous experience in all.
Difference 3: You get a score at the end of each song, based on….accuracy of words, maybe? Unclear. Music videos play in the background on the screen above the lyrics—sometimes the correct video, in the case of, say, “Poker Face.” Sometimes an alternate video of thematic shots of the singer and related paraphernalia, in the case of “Telephone.” And sometimes something entirely unrelated, as in the case of a dancing girl in a baby tee mixed with shots of Vienna during “Take Me Home Country Roads.”
The most popular American singers in China seem to be Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, and Avril Lavigne (?). A fair number of hits by these artists were performed. LYY picked an early Backstreet Boys song for us to do at one point that I barely remembered ever having been a hit in America, “Get Down,” which my fellow American and I struggled through.
In any case, I highly recommend this as an activity. A sidenote: instead of drinking beer from bottles, or from large glasses, the Chinese friends always poured the beer into small glasses (maybe 3 ounces) and would sip it or shoot it like hard liquour, and then pour more. Good to know.